Diffuse-reflectance mid-infrared spectroscopy reveals chemical differences in soil organic matter carried in different size wind eroded sediments

Soil organic matter (SOM) is essential for soil water holding capacity, aggregation, and biodiversity. Little information is available regarding the carbon (C) functional groups carried away in wind eroded sediments away from the source soil. Mid-infrared (MidIR) spectroscopy was used on wind tunnel-blown sediments eroded from a loam soil during the fallow period of different cropping systems and tillage managements in Akron, Colorado. The soil was managed as fallow-winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) under conventional tillage (F-Wct) or no tillage (F-Wnt) and fallow-wheat-corn under no tillage (F-W-Cnt). Two wind eroded sediments were evaluated: fine dust (<35 μm mean dia.) and saltation-size material (<175 μm mean dia.). Our study showed that there is a partition of C groups within wind eroded sediments of different sizes and that they can reflect the tillage management history of soil. The fine dust had higher levels of aliphatic CH (2930 cm-1), and clays (3690-3620 cm-1). The saltation-sized material showed higher absorbance for quartz from 2000-1800 cm-1 and reduced absorbance from 1250-1050 cm-1. Both wind eroded sediments showed higher absorbance for -OH/NH groups and aliphatic CH from no-till soil. Finer dust sediments, which travel greater distances from the source soil than saltation size material, can carry away higher levels of aliphatic-carbon compounds and clays with potential negative impacts on SOM quantity and quality, and consequently the sustainability of these agroecosystems. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.